By S.D. Wells
According to the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the commonly utilized emulsifier carrageenan will not be allowed as an ingredient in organic food by 2018. You see it in so many products lately, from coconut milk, almond milk and soy milk, to coffee creamers, ice cream, cottage cheese, deli meat and even infant formula (Similac). Yeah, it’s pretty gross too. Used as a thickening agent, this inflammatory and possibly carcinogenic additive does not belong in food at all, especially organic food.
If you’ve ever bought coffee creamer with carrageenan in it and kept it for more than about 10 days, you’ll have noticed a stringy coagulation of gooey gunk at the bottom. That’s the “food grade” carrageenan. Extracted from red seaweed, carrageenan has unique chemical bonds not found in other seaweeds or gums that affect the body in detrimental ways, including triggering an immune reaction that leads to inflammation in the gastrointestinal system. There are two forms of carrageenan, food-grade (or undegraded) and degraded, the latter of which is used in thousands of scientific studies to purposely cause inflammation and disease in lab animals. Make no mistake though, both forms are harmful to humans.
For 40 years, scientists have warned that carrageenan in food is not safe
Animal studies and in-vitro studies with human cells have shown over and over that food-grade carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations and cancerous tumors. The main problem with food-grade carrageenan is that the acidic environment of the stomach degrades it, exposing the intestines to a this potent cancerous agent. It adds zero nutritional value to foods, but it’s a food industry favorite substitute for fat – as a thickening agent.
Carrageenan recreates that “mouth-feel” for many thickened dairy products, like yogurt, sour cream and ice cream. It also works as a stabilizer for drinks that separate, like chocolate milk or nutritional shakes (how ironic, since it’s anti-nutritional).
Get this: it’s even used in meats, like processed deli meats and even prepared chicken. Gross! Food processors inject it as a brine in precooked chicken and turkey in order to maintain “juiciness” and improve the “tenderness.” It also helps bind sliced meat.
Due to its unique chemical structure, when any form of carrageenan enters the body, an innate immune response may be triggered, warning your system of a dangerous invader. For daily consumers of carrageenan, inflammation becomes a constant and catapults diseases over time. Chronic inflammation can lead to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
It gets worse. Scientists have also discovered that carrageenan inhibits the production of beneficial enzymes in human cells and impairs insulin action. Many food manufacturers falsely claim that only degraded carrageenan is harmful to humans, but they’re wrong.
Transcripts posted by Cornucopia Institute from the National Organic Standards Board Meeting in St. Louis on November 18th, 2016
Carrageenan has officially been removed from the National List of ingredients allowed in certified organic food! At the NOSB meeting, a presentation was given that summarized over 3,000 public comments on the issue and scientific research was presented, discussing how consumer trust in the organic label is eroding, thanks to harmful ingredients like carrageenan. One organic farmer and representative spoke up and said that they make ice cream without carrageenan and consumers appreciate it. People are reporting significant improvements in their gastrointestinal health after cutting carrageenan completely out of their diet.
Carrageenan was first approved by NOSB in the mid-1990s based on corporate-supplied information (we all know how unreliable that is). Corporate “shills” have infiltrated the FDA, the USDA and even the NOSB. Lobbyists for Monsanto and other evil corporations exert their influence (in the form of cash and luxurious gifts) to influence legislation regarding US food standards – even organic.
Finally, this past spring, Cornucopia, several farmer and consumer groups, and independent expert scientists testified at NOSB that carrageenan simply doesn’t meet the criteria defined in the Organic Foods Production Act.
The carrageenan industry suppressed research for decades about the dangers of the thickening agent
For 20 years or more, most organic food companies thought the seaweed-based “natural” food was safe, especially because disturbing and damaging research was suppressed by industry smear campaigns. Even peer-reviewed research was hidden from consumer eyes. Now, Cornucopia has developed a guide to assist consumers who want to avoid even certain “organic” foods that compromise their health. Are you suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms, a spastic colon, IBS, chronic diarrhea or just basic inflammation? Try eliminating carrageenan from your intake. It might be that little difference that matters a whole lot!
Natural Bliss brand coffee creamer is a good start. It’s one of the only creamers out there that doesn’t contain soy or carrageenan, and it’s non-GMO. That’s a start. Check it out if you’re an avid coffee drinker. And remember, not everything organic is good for you. Be a smart consumer and stay informed.
Other works by S. D. Wells
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